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Political Transition in the Middle East: A Century of Conflict - POL00022H

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  • Department: Politics and International Relations
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jacob Eriksson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

This module analyses different forms of political transition in the Middle East, analysing revolutions, civil wars, and processes of democratisation and change. Covering both key historical and more contemporary periods such as the ‘Arab Spring’, this module will help you understand the current state of a complex region.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

Throughout the twentieth century, the Middle East has been a region marked by dramatic political change. Empires have dissolved, states have been created, and conflict has been a regular feature of the political landscape. The driving forces behind change and conflict have been varied. Ethnicity, ideology, religion, and a quest for power or economic gain have generated pressures, often exacerbated by external intervention, which reverberate beyond national boundaries. In a region well known for its complex political dynamics, analyses are seldom straightforward.


This module examines the different forms of political change which have been prevalent in the region during the 20th and 21st centuries – including coups, revolutions, and civil wars, for example. An understanding of these political processes requires an interdisciplinary approach incorporating aspects of history, economics, and sociology, which this course aims to provide. It offers you the chance to explore different modes of transition by analysing a number of case studies (including Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Tunisia) through a comparative analytical perspective, thereby providing an understanding of the idiosyncrasies of individual cases and a number of broader and recurring political trends. You will thus be able to better understand and explain the current changes affecting the region, the historical context which informs them, and the challenges which lay ahead for individual countries and the combustible region as a whole.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  1. Identify the main forms of political transition in the region.
  2. Identify and account for major trends which repeatedly feature in Middle Eastern politics.
  3. Appreciate and explain the complex economic, historical, and social underpinnings of political change in the Middle East.
  4. Understand the significance of recent political changes across the region and contextualise them within the broader history of Middle Eastern politics.
  5. Understand the importance and prevalence of trans-national links that bind the region together and affect politics. 


Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor's feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 20 working days after submission; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor's regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Joseph Sassoon, Anatomy of Authoritarianism in the Arab Republics (Cambridge University Press, 2017)

Fawaz Gerges (ed.), The New Middle East: Protest and Revolution in the Arab World (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila al-Shami, Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War (Pluto Press, 2016)

Toby Dodge, Iraq: From war to a new authoritarianism (IISS/Routledge, 2012)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.